Thirteen Cambodian women human rights defenders have been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for defending their families’ future, their land rights and exercising their right to peaceful assembly and expression.
The women are from Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) community and were arrested after taking part in a peaceful demonstration over an ongoing land dispute that has led to the forced eviction of over 3,500 families. Two days later, all the women were summarily sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment. Two other BKL community representatives, one man and one woman, were arrested outside the trial, and remain in pretrial detention.
According to APWLD member LICADHO- Cambodian League for the Promotion of and Defense of Human Rights trial proceedings began approximately one hour after the prosecutor filed charges, and lasted only three hours. Lawyers for the representatives immediately requested a delay to allow them to prepare their defense – as is their automatic right under Cambodian law – but the request was denied. The lawyers were also refused access to the case file and state evidence. They were not permitted to call witnesses.
APWLD highlighted this concerning landgrabbing case at our side event in February 2012 at the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in November, “Rethinking Development Frameworks”. In addition, during the ASEAN People’s Forum in March 2012, a team from the Women’s Caucus on ASEAN visited the evicted communities of Boeung Kok Lake and Borei Keila to extend solidarity, garnering media coverage. The Women’s Caucus has created a letter to be sent to the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Cambodian mission at the ASEAN Secretariat.
The land of the Boeung Kak community was acquired in 2007 by Shukaku, Inc., a company owned by a ruling party senator. The development process has raised questions from the start, with the legality of the concession, and the evictions and crackdowns on residents.
In January 2012, APWLD reported the forced evictions of 1,770 families from Borei Keila Settlement and 300 families arbitrarily left out of compensation housing from the developer.
The community representatives have appealed their case and they will request bail, but in the absence of political pressure, the rulings of the appeal court will also be predetermined.
Press release: Culture of Impunity and Violence Must Stop- Cambodian and international CSOs
Further background information:
Boeung Kak Lake
Borei Keila Settlement